“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13
To lay down your life for a friend depends not on what that friend may think of you, say to you, or do to you. This kind of love only depends on how much you are willing to sacrifice your conditions of friendship for the sake of friendship itself. But uphold your conditions to others and let it be known, you are far from laying down your life and your friends are only as good as you make them to be. Some have thought it easier said than done, but if we consider this kind of love a burden to our lifestyle then we assuredly have not put upon the yoke of Jesus. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). In a world that teaches us to hate those who do wrong to us, we’re called to love them instead. “For by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Proverbs 25:22). When we love our enemies, we sanctify them, atone them, cleanse them because they encounter the love they’ve always desired; love that covers a multitude of sin (1Peter 4:8).What then becomes of our enemies except to treat them as equally as our friends? Although there may be circumstances to not affiliate with another (i.e. 1Corinthians 5:1-5), there is never reason for bitterness or offense to be upheld against anyone. This is what it means to lay down your life for your friends.
One of the greatest hindrances of friendship is expectation. From expecting a friend to meet the standards of your personal idea of friendship, they become obligated to perform in a way to gain your acceptance. But consider the verse above, “…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven.” To be a child of our Father is to bear His likeness. If we are to bear His likeness in our friendships, it is to re-present who the Father is to us.
“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). His own people, in whom He intended to be made as friends, flogged Him, spit on Him, and shamed Him to a cross. But how did Jesus show His friendship amidst it all? “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Although we crucified God Himself, He tasted death so that by faith we would not have to (Hebrews 2:9). As Jesus chose to love us rather than condemn us, shall we still consider it an impossible burden to do the same?
He who has been forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47). The only way to truly love anyone, even our friends, is to know how much God has loved us and forgiven us. When we perceive the Gospel of Jesus, we understand God’s love was not dependent on whatever we did or didn’t do. There is, therefore, no reason to deny the friendship of others under any condition. But Just as Christ showed His love, let us also walk in it. This is unconditional friendship.
“ Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32